Thirty years after the release of Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) comes the digital 4K version of a film now firmly enshrined as a modern classic. Having premiered at this year’s Berlinale in the Classics programme, this theatrical re-release is well worth your time, even for the already initiated.
For the heathens amongst you, Wenders’ lyrical and stunning cinematic valentine to Berlin sees Bruno Ganz’ trenchcoated guardian angel Damiel fall in love with a mortal, Solveig Dommartin’s Marion. Set in a still-divided city, he decides to trade in his immortal life, silently watching over Berlin’s inhabitants, for an earthly existence and human emotions.
The visually sumptuous images are made even crisper by this restoration, highlighting the invaluable contribution of Henri Alekan, the veteran cinematographer behind Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bête. The remastered version uses the original black-and-white and colour film stock, thereby heightening the contrast between the stylish monochrome and the gradual use of colour once Damiel becomes human. The sequences are reassembled as per the original cut, and the colour contrast is even more striking, invigorating the existing symbolism. The sepia-toned black-and-white aesthetic and colour infusions beautifully complement Peter Falks’ ode to coffee or lines like Damiel’s “Enough of the world behind the world”, which is to say that the knowledge of something can never live up to the experience of it. The restoration sensually accents how observing and listening from a distance is worth sacrificing, in order to experience life and simultaneously risk pain, and what fundamentally imbues our lives with meaning is the preciously finite time we have.
This heavenly restoration will delight fans and novices alike, and who in their right minds would pass on the opportunity to see this masterpiece on the big screen once again?
Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) | Directed by Wim Wenders (Germany, 1987), with Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander. Starts April 12
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